Between brackets, bars, insurance, and Invisalign™, there is a lot of room for confusion.  Let us help you better understand your family’s treatment through this easy-to-understand dictionary of orthodontic terms.  As always, if you feel confused or have questions, feel free to call us so we can guide you through to understanding.  Our goal is your complete comprehension and comfort with your family’s treatment plan.

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You may find it helpful to check the other categories listed, or as always, you may feel free to call us, as we are always happy to help you!




Anterior:   An adjective used to describe things pertaining to your centrals, laterals, and cuspids (your front teeth).

Appliance:  Anything the orthodontist attaches to your teeth to move your teeth or to change the shape of your jaw.

Arch:  Collectively, either the teeth or the basal bone of either jaw.

Arch Wire:  A metal wire that is attached to your brackets to move your teeth.

Archwire:  An archwire is a “U-shaped” piece of wire that is attached to brackets, which are in turn attached to your teeth.  The purpose of the archwire is to shape the layout of the teeth into an optimal arch pattern.  As your teeth are moved in orthodontic treatment, the archwire provides a guiding and shaping force to achieve the desired arch shape.

Articulator:  A special holder for models of your teeth. The articulator holds the models in the same alignment as your jaw so the orthodontist can look carefully at your bite.


Band:  A metal ring that is usually placed on your teeth to hold on parts of your braces.

Banding:  The process of cementing orthodontic bands to your teeth.

Bonding:  The process of attaching brackets to your teeth using a special safe glue.

Bracket:  A metal or ceramic part that is glued onto a tooth and that serves as a means of fastening the archwire.

Bruxism:  Clenching or grinding of your teeth, especially at night.


Cephalometric X-Rays:  An X-ray of the head that shows whether or not your teeth are properly aligned, and whether or not they are growing properly.

Chain, Orthodontic Chain:  A stretchable plastic chain used to hold archwires into brackets and to move teeth.

Cheek retractors:  Small plastic pieces used to draw back your lips and cheeks so the orthodontist can more easily see your teeth and work in your mouth.

Clear Braces:  Clear ceramic braces actually refer to brackets — the part of your braces that are glued to your teeth — made of a clear, less noticeable material.  Ask Dr. DiMassa about the possibility of getting clear braces.

The Consultation:  A meeting to discuss your treatment plan and financial options.

Crossbite:  A malocclusion where some of your upper teeth are inside of your lower teeth when you bite down.

Crowding:  An orthodontic problem caused by having too many teeth in too small of a space.

Curing Light:  A special UV light used to help attach brackets to your teeth.


Damon Braces/Self-Ligating:  This bracket uses the latest technology, significantly reducing the treatment time.  The Damon bracket uses a small slot that allows the archwire to freely slide around inside the bracket.  The archwire is held in place by a slide that works similar to a garage door.  This freedom allows the teeth to move quicker, with less friction.  In turn, the Damon brackets are smoother and less painful.  Ask Dr. DiMassa about the possibility of getting clear braces.

Deband:  The removal of your braces.

Decalcification:  The loss of calcium from your teeth.  This weakens your teeth and makes them more susceptible to decay.

Deciduous Teeth:  Primary, or baby teeth.

Deep Bite:  Excessive overbite; closed bite.  When your upper teeth cover more of the lower teeth than we like to see.

Diagnosis:  The process of identifying the nature of a disorder.

Diastema:  A space between two teeth.

Distal End Cutter:  A special plier used to cut off the ends of your archwires.


Elastics:  Elastics are another name for the rubber bands that are attached to the brackets on braces.  Elastics are usually attached between upper and lower or front and back teeth.  They are normally used to apply tension and to cause teeth to move in ways that braces alone cannot.

Erupt, Eruption:  When a new tooth comes in; the tooth is said to erupt when the tooth breaks through the surface of your gums, so you can see the tooth in your mouth.

Explorer:  A hook-like, fine-pointed instrument used in examining the teeth.

Extraction:  Extraction is the surgical removal of one or more teeth to allow movement of the remaining teeth.  Extraction is usually done when teeth are too crowded or where the presence of those teeth would interfere with optimal orthodontic treatment.

Extraoral photograph:  Facial photos.


Fluoride:  A chemical solution or gel, which you put on your teeth. The fluoride hardens your teeth and helps prevent tooth decay.

Fixed appliance:  Any orthodontic component that is cemented or bonded to the teeth.

Full orthodontic treatment:  Getting braces.


Impacted tooth:  A non-erupted tooth that has somehow gotten stuck and cannot erupt/come in.

Implant:  A replacement for one of your missing teeth.  The implant is different than a bridge, in that the implant is permanently attached into the bone.

Impressions:  The first step in making a model of your teeth.  You bite into a container filled with algenate, and the algenate hardens to produce a mold of your teeth.

Interceptive Orthodontic Treatment:  Orthodontic treatment usually done while you are still growing.  The objective of interceptive orthodontic treatment is to expand your palate and make other corrections, so that your later orthodontic treatment goes quicker and is less painful.


Lingual:  The tooth surface next to your tongue, or things mounted on the tooth surfaces next to your tongue.

Lingual appliances:  An orthodontic appliance fixed to the inside of your teeth, i.e. – lingual appliances are attached to the part of your teeth next to your tongue.


Malocclusion:  Poor positioning of your teeth.

Class I Malocclusion:  A malocclusion where your bite is okay (your top teeth line up with your bottom teeth), but your teeth may still be crooked, crowded, or turned.

Class II Malocclusion:  A malocclusion where your upper teeth stick out past your lower teeth.  This is also called an “overbite” or “buck teeth”.

Class III Malocclusion:  A malocclusion where your lower teeth stick out past your upper teeth. This is also called an “underbite”.

Mandible:  Your lower jaw.

Mandibular:  Pertaining to your lower jaw.

Maxilla:  Your upper jaw.

Maxillary:  Pertaining to your upper jaw.

Midline:  A plane through the very center of your mouth, perpendicular to your nose.

Mixed Dentition:  The situation when both deciduous and permanent teeth are present.

Mouthguard:  A device that is used to protect your mouth from injury when you are participating in sports.  The use of a mouthguard is especially important for orthodontic patients to help prevent injuries.


Nickel Titanium or (NiTi):  An especially strong orthodontic wire, which allows for rapid tooth movement.


Occlusal:  The chewing or grinding surface of the bicuspid and molar teeth.

Occlusal Plane:  The imaginary surface on which upper and lower teeth meet.

Occlusion:  The alignment and spacing of your upper and lower teeth when you bite down.

Open Bite:  A malocclusion in which the teeth do not close or come together.

Orthodontia:  Braces.

Orthodontics:  The treatment preformed to correct your bite and to make your smile look wonderful.

Orthodontist:  A dentist who has been specially trained to do orthodontics.

Overbite:  Vertical overlapping of the upper teeth over the lower.

Overjet:  Horizontal projection of upper teeth beyond the lower.


Palatal Expander:  A device used to make your jaw wider.

Panoramic X-ray:  An X-ray taken by a machine that rotates around your head to give the orthodontist a picture of your teeth, jaws, and other important information.

Periodontist (Perio):  A dentist who specializes in the treatment of diseases of your gums.

Plaque:  A colorless, odorless, sticky substance containing acids and bacteria that cause tooth decay.

Posterior:  An adjective used to describe things pertaining to the back of your mouth or to your back teeth.

Proper Occlusion:  A beautiful smile where all of your teeth are straight and your top teeth line up with your bottom teeth.

Prosthodontist:  A dentist who specializes in the replacement of missing teeth.


Radiograph:  Another name for an X-ray.

The Records Appointment:  One of the initial appointments.  The Orthodontic Assistant takes pictures of you, X-rays, and impressions so that they can conclude what treatment needs to be done.

Relapse:  Relapse is the movement of the teeth back towards their pre-treatment positions, following the removal of braces.   Dr. DiMassa routinely provides retainers to patients following treatment to prevent relapse.

Retainer:  A gadget that the orthodontist gives you to wear after removing your braces.  The retainer attaches to your upper teeth and holds them in the correct position.  You wear the retainer at night to make sure that none of your teeth move while your jaw hardens and your teeth become strongly attached to your jaw.

Retainers:  A retainer is a device that works full- or part-time to hold teeth in place and to prevent them from drifting or moving after orthodontic treatment has been completed.  Following Dr. DiMassa’s directions, wearing your retainer is very important to maintain the results of your treatment.

Retruded:  A term used when your front teeth are slated lingually, i.e. — toward the back of your mouth).

Rotation:  A movement in which the tooth turns along the long axis of the tooth.


Scaler:  A tool with a curved hook on one end.  The orthodontist uses the scaler to remove excess cement and to check for gaps.

Separator:  A plastic or metal part, which the orthodontist uses to create space between your teeth for bands.

Space Maintainer:  A gadget used to maintain a space in your mouth.  Space maintainers are used when a baby tooth is lost. The space maintainer will keep a space in your mouth until a permanent tooth comes in to fill the space.

Spee:  The curve of spee is the curvature of the occlusal plane of the teeth.

Sterilization:  A process where a medical material is treated to remove all possible germs and other forms of life.

Stop:  A bend or auxiliary attachment placed on a wire to limit the archwire from sliding or moving in the bracket slot of the bracket.

Supernumerary Teeth:  Some people have extra teeth.  These are called “supernumerary” teeth.


Thumb Sucking:  Thumb sucking can affect the growth of the upper and lower jaws.  Typical results include narrowing of the upper jaw, protrusion of the upper front teeth, and interference with the normal growth of the lower jaw.  Persistent thumb sucking can be corrected with the use of a simple orthodontic appliance.

Tipping:  A tooth movement in which the root of the tooth is tipped labially (lip) or lingually (tongue) to correct the angle of the crown of the tooth.

TMJ:  An abbreviation for the “temporomandibular joint.”  The “temporomandibular joint” is the joint where your lower jaw connects to your skull.  This joint may make a clicking or popping noise when a person chews or opens his/her mouth.

Torque:  The rotation of a tooth on the long axis, moving the root of the tooth in a buccal or labial direction.

Tracing (cephalometric):  An overlay drawing traced over a cephalometric X-ray that shows specific structures and landmarks that provided a basis for orthodontic therapy.


Wax:  A clear wax used to prevent your braces from irritating your lips when your braces are first put on, or at other times.

Wax Bite:  A procedure to measure how well your teeth come together.  You bite on a piece of wax, leaving a bitemark in the wax.  The orthodontist looks at the wax, along with the study models, to see how well your teeth are aligned.